Friday, January 31, 2014

Death of an Idiot

My Mom's Father died at his birthday party.  Not with a dramatic struggle, understand, he passed quietly mid-nap.  I wasn't at Grandpa's last birthday party because I didn't exist yet.  I've never met the man.  He was turning 49 that day, I believe.

So he blew out his candles, lay down on the couch with his first grandson who was then a fat curly haired one year old, and died.  Poof, kablooey, bam, sigh.  Nobody knew he was gone right away, of course.  He was allowed to lay there with a sleeping baby curled into his chest for hours.  It was his birthday, after all.

I don't know much about Grandpa aside from him having picked a relatively interesting moment to die.  I couldn't tell you if it happened in the winter or summer, spring or fall, I don't know when his birthday was.  I picture it happening in the fall because that's when my birthday is.  People are selfish narcissistic creatures and I'm no exception.

When I say I don't know much about him, I mean I can't be sure of anything.  I've heard plenty of the platitudes you expect to hear about a guy who has been dead for years.  By all accounts he was a nice man, soft hearted and good natured, maybe even a pushover?  I sat on the porch during a thunderstorm once and comforted my mom as she sobbed for hours about her dead father.  At the time she told me I was like him, that he'd have enjoyed meeting me.  I was seven or eight and very moved at the thought that I might have both found kinship in and pleased this dead saint, this mystery dream patriarch.

My Mom would have given that same speech to my older or younger sister had either of them been sitting on the porch with her, and in fact years later I heard her tell my younger sister that she was just like our dead Grandpa and that he'd have enjoyed meeting her.  Still, at the time, I got the impression that if he'd lived my life might have been different.  I was robbed of my champion.

I didn't hear my Grandma talk about him until I was older.  Not because she cared to spare the feelings of children, it had just never come up.  But there it finally was, "Oh, well, he was an idiot", in the same tone as the more common "Oh, girls, your mother's an idiot" and the much later, frequent and right up until the end of her life, "You're just like your idiot mother!"

Now unlike Grandpa, I had gotten to know my Grandma.  She was highly intelligent and viciously ambitious and suffered the entirety of her life from the misfortune of having been born not only poor, but female.  She was plagued by idiots, her lineage forever tainted by the necessary choices she'd made.  I don't resent her narcissistic eccentricities, she'd have killed for her grandkids, and she was alive.

So maybe Grandpa was an idiot, maybe he was a saint, or maybe he was just a regular guy who died before he got the chance to disappoint his kids.

Either or, Happy birthday, Grandpa, whenever it is.  I'd have liked to have met you.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I wrote about my friend Roy's passing last year, briefly.  I wasn't then and I'm still not quite ready to lay our shit out on front street.  I likely never will be and that's fine, because God knows nobody is asking me to run my mouth.  Tonight though, because of Roy, I've been listening to a dumb Michael Buble song, "I Want To Go Home", over and over again.

A few years back Roy asked me if I had any Michael Buble music.  He was a little older than me and had never made it into the computer age, so he called me when he had a question about directions or wanted a cd burned or needed to know what year the Moors invaded Italy.

I got so used to those calls, "Hey, you at the computer?  Do me a favor and look up what's his name, the round earth guy, what year was that?"


"Yeah him.  Hurry up, Kenny's being a dumb ass about this"

I'd provide the needed info and we'd say our I love you's and get off the phone.

So maybe six or seven years ago Roy asked me if I had any Michael Buble, and I didn't, of course, because I'm not a twelve year old girl or a sixty year old woman.  Because it was my job for years to do these small biddings of Roys, I asked around and it turned out that a coworker of mine was a Buble fanatic.  I burned all of his cd's for Roy, and he was happy enough with that.  The only cd's in Roy's truck were the cd's I'd made him.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except that I've been listening to that song all night and I can see now why Roy liked at least that track.

When I think back on the relationships I've had, the thing that strikes me is that I tend to have a better relationship with people once there's nothing left to lose.  The battle has to be over, maybe that's a testament to my stubbornness.  Roy and I spent a few rocky but passionate years together, and and then we took our time for the next ten years just loving each other.

I look around at the flotsam and jetsam of my life and Roy is everywhere, I wore a tshirt he gave me the other day, some dumb band from a show he bounced that neither of us ever heard of again.  I sleep in the bed that I helped him move from his storage container to my old house.  I wear a chain he bought me.  His shit in my life has stood the test of time.  Don't get me wrong, he was no sugar daddy and I've never been a shower me with gifts diva, we just did things for each other.  It wasn't perfect until it was over.

So I've been listening to this song that is the epitome of cheese, and I love it.  I'm reminded of Roy's sweet thick voice, "You do for me and I do for you", not an "if" equation, but a simple statement of the open exchange of affection and kindness that always ran in the deep currents between us.

Sayonara B.D. Royale, it's been an absolute pleasure, I look forward to seeing you again.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Grandma, or Meme as she insisted we call her in homage to her French heritage, had a bum finger.  The pointer on her right hand was cut off just below the top knuckle.  This gave her finger tip the appearance of a thick bone end.  It had happened in a silly accident, years before we were born she reached into a lawnmower to remove a piece of wood that was stopping up the blade.

We heard the story of Meme driving herself to the emergency room with her ghost fingertip dangling every time we set out to cut the grass, or when we were herded in front of her on the riding lawnmower, picking up and tossing sticks lest they get trapped underneath.

"Always make sure it's turned off, girls, never reach into the blades while the lawnmower is still running"

She'd jab me in the shoulder with her phantom finger for good measure.

On weekday mornings, that finger represented a fresh horror.  Meme lived across the street, and every day at 6AM she'd come over to guide our fifteen minutes of piano practice.  We'd wake up to Meme banging out the Battle Hymn of the Republic on the old upright in the foyer at the bottom of the stairs.  Our howls of "Fifteen more minutes please stop shut up shut up shut up!" were ignored, Meme liked to sing when she played.  She had seeming infinite patience for our impudence, though I think the truth was more that she was just a bigger bitch than we were.  Alphas like that don't feel threatened by the rudeness of children.

My grandma was such an towering person, she's been dead for almost twenty years and her personality is still the most important guest at every family event.

Back to the piano.  Meme chased us around mercilessly those mornings, insisting that we practice for fifteen minutes every day.  My older sister was better at fighting her off than I was, or I was kinder than my sister.  She'd often escape to a friends house and I wouldn't see her until we met up at the bus stop before school.  I always spent the last portion of my mornings before school with my grandma hunched over me from behind beating out whatever song I was supposed to practice with her stump finger and spitting onto my neck and hair as she screamed out the lyrics.

I don't know how to play the piano, despite extensive lessons.  I was never able to master two handed play, or note reading, but I can pick out a tune by ear and I'm not tone deaf.  Meme was tone deaf like a mother fucker but that didn't stop her from volunteering to play piano every chance she got through church or assorted senior center events, her stump finger banging away brutally at the keys.  Meme could make anything sound like a polka.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, happy new year!